Could changing power relationships lead to better water sharing in Central Asia?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Even though Central Asia is water rich, water disputes have characterized the region after crumbling of the Soviet Union in 1991. The uneven spatial distribution and complex pattern of transboundary water sources with contrasting national water needs have created an intricate water dilemma. Increasing national water needs, water claims by surrounding countries, uncertainties in renewable water volumes, and effects of climate change will put further strain on the future water use in Central Asia. We argue that the present power distribution with three downstream hegemons (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and two upstream much poorer countries with less political influence (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) is not likely to lead forward to a greater willingness to share water. We discuss this situation with the analogue Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia in the Nile Basin. Thus, as in the case of Ethiopia in the Nile Basin, gradually economically stronger upstream countries Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan due to hydropower development are likely to eventually re-define the hydropolitical map of Central Asia. As in the case of the Nile Basin, a more even power balance between upstream and downstream countries may lead to an improved political structure for a much needed better collaboration on water issues.


External organisations
  • Karaganda State Medical University
  • L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University (ENU)
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Central Asia, Climate change, Hydropolitics, Transboundary water, Water conflict, Water management
Original languageEnglish
Article number139
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch